“I wanted the audiences to forget this was an animated film,” says filmmaker Will Gluck of his approach to the direction of Sony Pictures Animation’s Peter Rabbit, the new family comedy based on Beatrix Potter’s beloved characters.
“Hopefully, after the first few minutes of getting acclimated to the fact that animals are talking and wearing clothes, it just feels real to the audience.”
In Peter Rabbit, the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers now takes on the starring role of his own contemporary comedy. In the film, Peter’s feud with Mr. Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights than ever before as their fight to gain control of McGregor’s coveted vegetable garden and the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover, Bea, who lives next door (Rose Byrne) extends to the Lake District and London.
The animation was overseen by producer Zareh Nalbandian and his company Animal Logic, which previously produced the animated hits The Lego Movie (and its sequel, The Lego Batman Movie) and Happy Feet. “For Will, all the animated characters in Peter Rabbit exist just like the characters played by Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson,” he says.
“As we approached the animation, we had the same kinds of questions for him that the live-action actors might ask. ‘How do you want Benjamin Bunny to feel? How do you want him to emote?’ It’s all about performance. We consider our characters as real characters, so our dialogue with Will was on that level. For our animators, that was fantastic because Will didn’t put restrictions on anything, but it was also immensely challenging. This was probably the most complex film that we’ve made at Animal Logic.”
The production ran parallel animation and live action units during principal photography, with editors cutting scenes while the film was shooting, and storyboard artists drawing over cut scenes to represent where the animals might be.
With that, Gluck could get a sense of the film he had shot and the possibilities for animation. And with that, he discovered the great blessing and curse of animation: you can always change it. “You don’t have that in live-action – you shoot the scene, and the scene’s over. In animation, anyone can say, ‘Here’s an idea that could improve the scene.’ And while the animators were sleeping, I was rewriting,” he says – noting that the animators were ready for it. “There were over 400 people working on Peter Rabbit. They were all studying their small portion of the film and coming up with the most wonderful ideas. The ‘what-ifs’ were the fun part of this movie.”
Now playing in Philippine cinemas, Peter Rabbit is distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.